Washing clothes by hand in sink
how what why?

How to handwash clothes

Most modern washing machines now have handwash programmes which use low temperatures, short cycles, a gentle rocking action, and a reduced or zero spin. But a manual approach is the gentlest way to wash your items, increasing their longevity by preserving both the fibres and details. It can be an effective option for most types of clothing - especially for smaller loads, washing bras, delicate underwear, bathing suits and wool or silk, or even when travelling. That’s why we’ve compiled our handy step-by-step guide - pun intended - so that you can handwash your favourite pieces with confidence.  

Step 1: read the care instructions 

Close up of washing label showing 'hand wash only' sign

Always check the care instructions on your clothes. The handwash only symbol is easy to spot: a tub with a hand. You’ll find this accompanies most delicate fabrics (wool, cashmere, silk, satin), as well as laced, embellished, beaded or sequined clothing. For these particular pieces, handwashing is always the safest and gentlest option, and we always recommend handwashing items which are heavily embellished in particular. You can also always, of course, handwash everyday fabrics like cotton and linen, whether because you don’t have access to a washing machine, or because you just want to show your entire wardrobe some extra special TLC. If you choose to use the handwash programme on your machine instead, be sure to use a mesh laundry bag for protection. If you’re unsure whether to handwash, perform a spot test on the item first. Simply dab a very small amount of water and/or detergent on an inconspicuous area of fabric.

Step 2: sort/group 

As always, sort your laundry systematically by colour and fabric type - you can handwash multiple items together, so long as they are of the same colour and fibre content. That means creating piles of whites, darks, woollens, delicates and everyday items. Be sure to also set aside any garment that’s been either heavily stained or temporarily dyed, to avoid colour transfer: these should be pretreated and washed on their own.

Step 3: choose the right formulation 

Knit blue jumper laid down with left hand holding a Kair Wool, Silk and Delicates wash

Delicate fabrics require only the gentlest of ingredients, and extra special care. That’s why we developed our specialist Wool, Silk and Delicates Wash, which gently cleans and protects even the most delicate fabrics, from cashmere and wool to silk.

Step 4: fill tub with water

Depending on the size of your hand-wash load, fill a bath tub, basin or sink with cool or lukewarm water - cool for woollens and delicates, but lukewarm for everything else.

Step 5: spot-treat, or submerge and soak  

Image showing a knit jumper being washed in soapy water

Tackle your stains first: work the detergent into the stain with either a finger or a gentle brush (a clean toothbrush works very well). For particularly tough stains, as well as heavily soiled items or those with a strong odour, submerge the material in the tub, and allow it to soak for 30 minutes (for silk items in particular it’s important that you don’t exceed the 30 minutes). Then use gentle movements to swish the items through soapy water, pushing the fabric either between your hands or against the edge of the tub. Avoid scrubbing or wringing, which can stretch and alter the shape of the item. If you’re handwashing your woollens in particular and spot some colour in the water, simply keep calm and carry on! This is quite normal - it’s just the yarn dye releasing some colour, and won’t have any noticeable effect on the colour of your garment once you’ve finished washing. 

Step 6: rinse, repeat

Drain the tub and refill with cool water. Push the item up and down in the water until the water runs clear and you’ve removed all the soapiness. Then repeat if necessary. For small, lightweight delicates, like lingerie and swimwear, feel free to use a colander to rinse.

Step 7: dry

Image showing blue knit jumper being hung on clothes drying rack

We recommend drying naturally, as tumble drying can damage both the shape and elasticity of delicate fibres due to the combination of heat and agitation. Summer sunlight is nature’s own dryer, but even in the very wintriest of months, all you need is a trusty drying rack! Be sure to hang coloured and delicate items inside out, and bottoms from the tops, and tops from the bottom, to smooth out creases. For woollens, avoid heat sources like radiators and lay them flat in their natural shapes to prevent stretching. To speed up the drying process, simply roll it gently in a clean towel. Never wring or twist!

Step 8: finish  

Once dry, spritz your pieces with some of our Signature Finishing Spray, to release wrinkles and infuse with lasting luxury. Then smooth with your hands, and you’re good to go!

Featured Products